The other day, Mayor Sandy Stimpson signed a contract extension with Carnival Cruise Line that means the Carnival Fantasy will call the Port of Mobile home through November 2019. It's good news, especially after the sting of losing Carnival back in 2011 for no apparent reason.
These extensions are likely going to be an annual event for many years to come. Carnival has a firm footing in the Mobile area, the city is (unsurprisingly) ranked #1 in friendliness and hospitality compared to other ports in Carnival's system, and the Carnival Fantasy typically sails at full capacity.
Right now, you can book cruises from Mobile all the way into April 2021. That's a full 18 months beyond the length of the new contract. A Carnival spokesperson told al.com a while back that scheduling so far in advance is routine, and doesn't necessarily mean anything. Still, that sailing schedule gives us plenty of insight into what Carnival has learned about the market -- what cruises work, which ones don't. Going forward, the cruise line will serve fewer destinations than they did during the past twelve months.
It's not a big change, as all the destinations being cut were only recently added. A year ago, the cruise line announced these new sailings from Mobile:
- Eastern Caribbean, including Key West and The Bahamas.
- Longer Western Caribbean cruises -- 8-day cruises would also feature Belize and Mahogany Bay (Honduras), and a 6-day cruise would add Grand Cayman to the itinerary
- A cruise branded as Carnival Journeys that takes in the Panama Canal and Limón, Costa Rica.
None of these were offered regularly, so it's likely Carnival was just testing the waters (pun!) on where they could sail from Mobile, and still make a healthy profit. They must have gotten their answer, because just one of those three cruises remains on the company's sailing schedule during the next 30 months -- the Carnival Journeys cruise to the Panama Canal, which is offered once each year.
Aside from that one exception, Carnival will focus solely on its 4- and 5-day Western Caribbean cruises -- to Cozumel, Progreso, and the "Costa Maya" (which is a charming little beach town called Mahahual). It's a shame that the longer cruises aren't still on the schedule, but you do what works best. And if Carnival is getting the most out of its shorter cruises, we're not going to complain.
For a look at the history of Carnival in Mobile, including the infamous poop cruise on the Carnival Triumph, take a look at this short history from al.com.
Photo Credit: Carnival.com